A Poem a Week

(A Poem a Week materials are structured so that it is one complete page – you can print the whole page or copy and paste individual poems and exercises)

Brought to you by Sherryl Clark and Meredith Costain!

Each week, we posted a poem here by an Australian children’s writer. We’ve also include a note on where the idea came from and some information about the writer. Some of them will be known to you as poets, some may surprise you! And some may be primarily writers for adults, but have written poems that we think you and your students will enjoy.

The purpose of this page is to give you great poems to use in the classroom – either to read and enjoy, to discuss, or to use as models for writing. For us, the main purpose is ENJOYMENT. We want to provide an instant resource that doesn’t require you to buy a book or spend hours trawling the internet.

Please remember that these poems are copyrighted – acknowledge the poet if you make copies for your class – and also remember to include these on your CAL records.

And when you like a poet’s work, do search out their websites and buy their books. If you enjoy these poems, then so will your students. All feedback very welcome – email Sherryl via the contact page, especially if you are interested in a school visit or workshops.

 

SUNGLASSES

by Sherryl Clark

Cool
I look cool
in these glasses
in the mirror
I am tinted
smooth
slick

My sister said
my old glasses
made me look like
a bogong moth
big black orbs
instead of eyes

Now I’m cool
lizard cool
beetle cool
cool insect
that’s me.

Sherryl says: This poem is from Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), but the bogong moth comment was one my sister made to me! My old sunglasses were very un-cool, but then the next pair I bought got broken when I accidentally sat on them!

Poetry exercise: Is there something that makes you feel special, or different? Is it glasses, or jeans or boots? Or your favourite cap or Tshirt? Write a poem about how you feel before you put it on, and then how it makes you feel when you’re wearing it.

Iceberg

by Claire Saxby

In a blue Antarctic dawn
an iceberg calves –
shears from a glacier
and is released to the sea

sharp and angular
it hoards ancient weather
layers of ice clothing
a coat for each year volcanoes blew
and black ash fell like snow

deeply it sits
silent   peaceful
innocent whale
deadly danger

storms blow
tides swell
nights fall and fade
age blunts the underwater blades
wind softens the face

the iceberg travels on
past old grandfather blues
and cheeky growlers
to finally fall      and sleep
on a drift of fragile ice flowers

Claire says: I was helping my son research a project on food chains in the Antarctic and discovered the wonderful words that are used to describe the various life stages and shapes of an iceberg. From the moment it comes into being to its demise the iceberg is moving, transforming. So as my son constructed his project poster linking the ‘who-eats-who’, I collected iceberg words and scrabbled them together into a life history.

Claire is a writer of poetry, fiction and non fiction for children. One of her poems, ‘Pompeii Dog’ is currently travelling suburban Melbourne aboard a Connex train as part of a Moving Galleries exhibition. Her books include Ebi’s Boat and A Nest for Kora. You can see more of Claire’s work at www.clairesaxby.com

 

Leaving

by Margaret Campbell

We’re leaving the shop
and the lolly jars on the counter,
the HOT WATER sign
and the boiler full of crabs.
We’re leaving the petrol bowsers
and Dad’s icecream churn.

We’re leaving the boats,
the fish nets, full and gleaming,
the oysters on the Stony Wall
and the yabbies in the backwater.
We’re leaving the sun-bright days
and the waves rolling and crashing.

We’re leaving the beach
the cowrie shells and sandcastles,
just Dad and me together,
our ports are packed and strapped.
We’re leaving Brampton Heads now,
for Army Camp and boarding school.

We’re leaving.

Margaret says: This poem is from a verse novel called Cecelia’s War. The poems are about me as a child during World War II, and later as a teenager. They reflect the life at that time – we owned a shop at the Heads – and how my father went off to join the Army, while I went to boarding school.

Margaret Campbell‘s first collection of poems, On the Outside, Looking In, was about reconciliation. Her YA novel, Shadow Across the Sun, was published by Lothian and she is working on a second. Cecelia’s War is available to buy – contact me for details.

Poetry exercise: Have you left a place you loved? Or lost something special? Write a poem about the place or thing, recalling all of your favourite memories about it. OR You could interview your parents or grandparents and write a poem about one of their favourite memories. You would have to listen closely and ask lots of questions! In Margaret’s poem there are things you might not know about – bowsers, icecream churn, ports – ask someone older who can tell you. It will add to your reading of the poem.

 

To Catch a Dewdrop

by Jackie Hosking

Between the wooden fence posts
Is where to set your net
Though best to try to make one of your own
You’ll need the smallest needle
And the most exquisite thread
For it must be the finest ever sewn

Imagine you’re creating
Reams of silken fairy lace
Each stitch must be exact without exception
Then hang it from the fence posts
Like a veil between the space
A doily matched by none in its perfection

Leave the net till morning
And then check it with the sun
Though best to go at dawn when day is new
Where you might spy some other nets
You’re not the only one
Cause spiders like to capture dewdrops too.

Jackie says:

Spider webs are amazing. Spider webs at dawn, dripping with dewdrops are nothing less than magical and I’ve wanted to write about them for a long time. I’ve always found nature to be perfect, something that we, as humans cannot copy no matter how hard we try. Nature needs no help from us and that’s what I wanted to get across with this dewdrop poem.

Jackie Hosking is an economical writer – she loves short and sweet with a twist at the end so poetry suits her very well. She has been writing poetry for children since 2004 and she plans never to stop. Her poems have appeared in The School Magazine, Comet, Rigby Blueprints and various other publications. Her favourite style is rhyme as she enjoys the challenge of searching for the absolute right word that says exactly what she wants it to say and that also, just by coincidence, happens to rhyme.

You can visit Jackie at two places – www.jackiehosking.com and www.versatilityrhymeandrhythm.blogspot.com 

 

What are haiga?

These are haiga. Haiku that are part of an image.

What do you notice about Haiga that is different from haiku? We have the same idea of few words and short lines, but now there is an image too. We don’t want to simply duplicate the image with our words – we need to do something more.

Exercise: find an image (a photograph or picture from a magazine etc) that you like. Write a modern haiku to go with the image. Try not to just write what is in the image. Add something extra in your words. If you are not sure about what a haiga is, Google it for more examples!

Here are some ideas about haiku to use for a haiga. While many students are taught the traditional 5-7-5 syllables, modern haiku has a lot more flexibility – which makes it more fun!

Look at these from Kathryn Apel:

nocturnal predator –
gecko
nips lips

ping-pong ping-pong
even frogs
sing in the shower

Click – door opens
who’s here?
the wind

whoosh
snap clack
black and white bomber

Kathryn says: In January I organised a Month of Haiku with poets from across Australia and America taking part. WE all wrote one haiku every day for the month. These come from my haiku diary.
The gecko haiku is true – my son was taking a close-up look at a gecko and it nipped him on the lip!

Kathryn wrote poetry during high school – but then didn’t write anything until she was at home with her young children and reading rhyming picture books. She  enjoys writing in rhyme and fiddling with short form poetry, stretching boundaries and playing with words. Kathryn is eagerly awaiting her first (rhyming) picture book, ‘This is the Mud!’ to be released by Lothian Books in 2009.

Poetry exercise: Try some haiku of your own, but don’t get hung up on the 5-7-5 rule. Focus on creating a small word picture in three lines – the smaller, the better. And aim for your third line to be a small surprise of some kind.

 

ALIEN

Sherryl Clark

A lot of the time
I feel like I must be adopted
or my brain got wired wrong
or I’m secretly an alien
(but they didn’t tell me).

I don’t fit
in my family
or at school,
I have friends
but sometimes even they
think I’m weird.

I say dumb things
I wear stupid clothes
I can’t make my hair behave
some days the whole world
looks wrong to me.

I wish the space ship
would come back
and collect me.

Sherryl says: I often felt like this when I was a kid – out of place, out of sorts. And I can’t tell you how many people have told me of similar experiences. This was the poem that started Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) and led to a story that was all about finding out who you really are inside.

Sherryl Clark‘s verse novels have won both the NSW Premier’s Award (Farm Kid) and an Honour Book award in the CBCA awards (Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!)). Her other verse novels are Motormouth and Runaways.

She would love it if more kids read poetry and wrote it too! Her websites are about her books and writing and about poetry for kids.

Poetry exercise: Place says a lot about who you are or how you feel. Think about a place that means a lot to you – how do you feel when you are there? Can you write a poem that shows us the special place and how you feel, without using the word feel? Use descriptive mood words to help create atmosphere.

Rodney, Who Was Mean to his Sister, and Copped It Big Time:A Cautionary Tale

Meredith Costain

If you’ve ever had a brother
I know you’ll understand
That brothers are a nightmare and
Should totally be banned!

My brother loved to call me names
Like Ferret-Face and Freak
If I complained he’d pick me up
And dunk me in the creek.

Our creek was full of leeches
That latched on to my toes
And slimy eels and tadpole tails
That ended up my nose …

He tickled me relentlessly
Put toast crumbs in my bed
Gave all my dolls bad haircuts –
Then hanged them in the shed.

We’d wrestle in the lounge room where
He’d pin me to the floor
And twist my arm behind my back
Till I’d cry out ‘No more!’

He’d cheat at every game we played
Refusing to take turns
My tiny arms were black and blue
From daily Chinese burns.

He’d pinch me and he’d punch me
Snap mousetraps on my thumb
He’d raid the cake and biscuit tins
Then dob me in to Mum.

One day I got my own back
It really wasn’t hard
I laid a trail of biscuits
That led out to our yard.

And there amongst the hay bales
He was cornered like a rat
I climbed aboard our tractor
And SQUASHED HIM FLAT!

So listen up dear brothers
Here’s my advice to you
Be gentle with your sisters or
They’ll GET YOU TOO!

Meredith has been writing doggerel – and catterel! – since she was six. Her poems have appeared in various publications but she is best known for her book of action verse for the very young, Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2007) This poem is from When We Were Young (Penguin). Her other books include several titles in the Aussie Nibbles series, Musical Harriet and No Noise at Our House (due in September). Visit her at www.meredithcostain.com

Poetry exercise: Choose someone you know who you’d like to write a poem about – sister, brother, friend, grandparent. Write down three things you know about them, and six descriptive words for them. Try to work all of these things into a poem – maybe you could write one verse about each thing, or tell a story in your poem about something that person did. Your poem doesn’t need to rhyme – try writing it by focusing on story and using great descriptive words first.

 

Making Wardrobe Space
Lorraine Marwood

The huntsman spider hangs
last season’s body suit
on the rough hooks of
the old wooden post.

Put out to air
in the drying summer sun,

see it twirl, spin,
move mock spider legs.

Passing by, I can almost
believe that the flesh and blood
owner is a puppeteer hiding
behind ridges of wood,
pulling silk wires to make
his old self do a predatory
dance.

Lorraine says: an idea came from watching the shell of a huntsman spider swinging on the fence post at our farm. It reminded me of outgrown clothes as children grow and that prompted me to think about spiders and their outgrown suits

www.lorrainemarwood.com
Lorraine loves writing poetry.  Poetry allows her freedom to gather images and to build them into a different slant on the world.  Great satisfying fun.  Lately her love of poetry has gown into a verse novel, out now: Ratwhiskers and me (Walker Books).

Poetry exercise: Is there something small but strange or different in your house? A secret corner? An insect’s home? A tiny treasured object? Write a poem about something small that doesn’t belong to you – imagine its owner, or create a small story about it and tell it through a poem.

Scarecrow
Janeen Brian

I am put together
with no choice in how I look.
I must resemble a nightmare
in clothes worn-in
and worn-out.
Wind tugs at them
Like sails on the ocean.
Rain wets them,
chills my insides.
heat stalks its way
through a hat
that sits crooked,
cuts off a triangle of view.

What do you see when you look at my face?
When I am warm
and there is no taste
of crows’ taunts in my mouth,
then I feel the rod of my back straighten
and I feel soft
and beating inside –
can you see that on my face?
When the wind
screeches at fields,
shaves soil to dust
and tears hair from my head –
can you see that on my face?

When green tips nudge
tiny clods of earth
and push upwards to the sun –
can you see that on my face?
Does my expression
change – or not?

Each day I wake to the same view,
but long to see a sunrise.
Each day I feel there are steps
that would excite
would lead to places
my head cannot yet know.

One night, when the moon is bright
and a star swings low,
I will pluck that star and cut the rod that holds me
and I will leave the field
and make my own path
in the moonlight.

Janeen says: the idea for this poem comes from when I was driving through the countryside of South Australia. In the middle of a paddock was a scarecrow. Part of him had been created with hay bales and he was beginning to look a bit shabby. I started to wonder what a scarecrow’s life would be as like – unable to have choices and stuck facing the same direction and view each day. And I wondered if one day he might be able to have a freedom of sorts. I also think some people are content being scarecrows, doing the same things every day in the same way. Perhaps they might it find it exciting to one day make their ‘own path in the moonlight.’

Poetry exercise: Imagine yourself as an object – something with a face, such as a doll or a puppet or a garden gnome. What kind of personality would you have? What would your days be like? How would you see the world around you? How would you feel? Write a poem that shows the reader all of these things (and whatever else you can imagine).

 

WOODPILE

Mum screams
Dad and I
come running
and my sister grins

she’s been under the woodpile
again
holds gently in her hand
not a lizard
or a grass snake
but a hairy-legged
beady-eyed
wolf spider
“it tickles,” she says

I feel those
tickling legs
up my shirt
in my hair
down my back
all day.

from Farm Kid (Penguin)

Sherryl says: This poem came from a real experience when I was a kid. I was scared of spiders (I still am!) and my grandmother thought she could help me to get over it by actually holding a spider in my hand. She couldn’t understand why I screamed and ran away! She had no trouble picking one up at all.

Sherryl Clark has been writing poetry for over thirty years. Her first verse novel, Farm Kid, won the 2005 NSW Premier’s Award for Children’s Books. Her second, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), was recently awarded an Honour Book in the CBCA awards. Sherryl prefers to write poems that don’t rhyme, but she loves rhythm and language in all their aspects.

Poetry exercise: What is something you are really scared of? Is it spiders? Mice? Heights? Eating cauliflower? Write a poem that describes your feelings at being confronted by your fear – try not to use the word feel. Try to create a word picture that shows the reader what it’s like!

 

The Hippos
by Elizabeth Honey

They do exercises together in the slow lane,
laughing till their walnut faces are as wrinkled
as their rubber bathing caps.
They take ten minutes to submerge
and when they do the tide comes in!

We duck-dive down and watch them.
Flower skirts twenty years old
float around the old hippo hips.
They laugh and pedal and bob.
They dance on the tips of their hippo toes,
and breast stroke neatly to the music.
Slowly they bounce from side to side,
doing dainty underwater kicks.

Then in the changing room we take sly glances.
They don’t care who sees what.
Wrinkled saggy baggy old white hippos
wobble like jelly when they laugh.
But usually they’ve gone by the time we get out of the pool.
Vanished.
Just little drifts of powder on the tiles,
and a waft of lavender.

From Mongrel Doggerel (Allen & Unwin)

Liz says: The idea for the hippos poem came from the Richmond Baths where I go for a swim a couple of times a week. Us writers have to get exercise or we turn into computer-zombie-fatbottomblobs. (I also have quite a few good ideas when I’m swimming—I think it’s something to do with the breathing, and the fogged up goggles.)
The hippos poem is all true. These women really enjoy themselves, being dainty and weightless in the pool together, and boy, they love to laugh! They seem old fashioned. I bet their grandchildren love them. I do.

Elizabeth Honey is an award-winning author of poetry, picture books and junior novels. Her playful humour, originality and irrepressible energy strike a chord with kids everywhere and her stories about the Stella Street mob have been translated into many languages. Her poetry collections include Honey Sandwich, The Man in the Moon and her latest book, I’m Still Awake, Still.

Poetry exercise
: Write your own poem comparing a person or a group of people to a particular type of animal. Think about the way they move or the sounds they make as well as the way they look. You could also include a description of their ‘habitat’: a playground, a footy field, an all-you-can-eat food buffet.

 

Wintry Weather
by Meredith Costain

I love the wintry weather
When we rug up warm together
Watching lightning flicker-flashing round the sky.

I love it when it’s chilly
And the garden’s daffodilly
And the kitchen smells of toast and apple pie.

I love it when it’s raining
And the ducks are aquaplaning
Over puddles in the middle of our street.

I go squelching, stomping, splashing
Kicking stones and spatterdashing
Making wintry weather patterns with my feet.

Meredith says: ‘My dogs love splashing through puddles and so did I as a kid. I wanted to fill this poem up with lots of images and sounds that reminded me of the things I enjoy about cold days. And I was very excited to discover a wonderful new word – spatterdashing! – when I was looking up rhymes for flashing and splashing.’

Meredith has been writing doggerel – and catterel! – since she was six. Her poems have appeared in various publications but she is best known for her book of action verse for the very young, Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2007) from which this poem is taken. Her other books include several titles in the Aussie Nibbles series, and the very famous Ella Diaries series. Visit her at www.meredithcostain.com

Poetry exercise: what do you like best about winter? The footy? Snow? Woolly gloves? Write a poem that shows everyone your favourite winter thing – don’t forget smells, sounds, taste and touch as well as what you can see.

Now, some small poems from Peter Bakowski:

The Letter ‘S’

dreams of becoming
a dollar sign.

In the Hardware Store

Bald men
admiring
the heads
of mops.

Subtle

A tomato
reddening
on the sill:
sunset
to a snail.

Bathplug

A way
to edit
water.

What Peter says: I think inanimate objects and letters of the alphabet have secret lives. I like to put them under the spotlight, to remind the reader of their existence and to lead the reader into thinking further about them.
I get my poems by observing small objects and creatures, human beings and world events and thinking about them.

Melbourne poet Peter Bakowski has been writing poems for 25 years. He tries to write as clearly as possible with a painter’s eye. These poems are from The Heart at 3a.m. His other books include Days That We Couldn’t Rehearse and In The Human Night.

You will find an exercise on small word picture poems here.

PUFFER FISH
Doug MacLeod

My brother had a puffer fish,
He kept it on his desk.
A slimy little puffer fish,
Balloon-like and grotesque.
And if you took it by surprise
Or loudly slammed the door,
It puffed till it was twice the size
That it had been before.

One day, we found the puffer fish
Was absent from its bowl.
Our cat looked rather devilish,
For she had downed it whole.
And how my wicked brother laughed
When pussy said, ‘Mia-ow!’
Inflated like a rubber raft
Then loudly went kerpow.

Doug says: I apologise to cat-lovers for this poem. I am one myself, but I’m afraid the image of a cat expanding like a rubber raft was too good to pass up.

‘Puffer Fish’ is from a collection of humorous poems called Spiky, Spunky, My Pet Monkey (Puffin 2004). Other books of Doug’s include Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns, Tumble Turn and Kevin the Troll. Doug has also worked on many popular TV shows, including SeaChange and Kath and Kim.

Would you like an exercise about rhyming poetry? Click here.


OVER AND OVER

by Janeen Brian

Over and over the bar she swung,
the wonderful whizzing in
her stomach
and her hair falling soft and slack
about her face.

Over and over she swung until
the material of her shorts
caught and the skin on her legs
squeaked hard and tight.

Over and over she swung because
upside-down was fun –
everything was a wonderland.
Blood in her head
belly in her mouth
people in the sky
and grass making straight green clouds.

Janeen says: The idea for this poem came from a strong memory of the joy I had playing on the playground equipment at primary school. We had monkeybars and a jungle gym with a ladder, swing circles, a long bar and a swing bar. I particularly remembered the fun of linking both ankles and twirling around the big bar. From one minute to the next, everything changed; the sky, the trees, children’s feet, clothing, faces! It was a delicious feeling, both the turning and the everyday sights that became extraordinary.

Janeen enjoys writing poetry; both rhyming poems and free-writing poems where there is more of a subtle rhythm. She enjoys the magic and the music of words and delights in the sharp, concise clarity of getting the exact right word. Also she loves that the idea that poetry can be a hotline to your feelings or emotions.
www.janeenbrian.com Apart from having 68 books published, Janeen has poems in 14 anthologies, two picture books in rhyming verse (The Super parp-buster! and Columbia Sneezes!) while By Jingo! and Silly Galah! also contain rhyming verses about birds and animals.

Would you like a poetry exercise based on this poem? Click here.

LEFT BEHIND ON THE BEACH
by Lorraine Marwood

Left behind on the beach:
two scoops of holes
for the sea to fill,
two mini holes
for the crabs to climb.

Left behind on the beach:
giggling waves, fists of shells,
treasures of seaweed necklaces,
diamonds of sun
and the crust of a sandwich:
seagull supper.

Left behind on the beach:
a summer holiday, carrying
beach towels, sunscreen and hats,
a beach chair for mum
and binoculars for dad.

Left behind on the beach:
the in/out breathing of waves,
the screech of seagulls,
the mizzle of mist
and somewhere out on the reef
the anchor of a long ago ship.

Lorraine says: ‘The idea for this poem came from a rare summer holiday when we were dairyfarmers.  Walking the beach on a not so summery day, I looked and looked as a beachcomber.  I saw the usual bits and pieces left as evidence of a fun day at the beach.  I just had to jot it down.  The title came first- which is unusual  and then after chopping the first stanza- which often only serves as a way into the poem; the poem came surfing along.  I always carry my notebook with me and jot down lines, especially in a new location.’

Would you like a poetry exercise based on this poem? Click here.

www.lorrainemarwood.com
Lorraine loves writing poetry.  Poetry allows her freedom to gather images and to build them into a different slant on the world.  Great satisfying fun.  Lately her love of poetry has gown into a verse novel, out now: Ratwhiskers and me (Walker Books).
She has two collections of poetry for children published by Five Islands Press and her poems appear in School Magazine New South Wales and in anthologies.

 

MERRI CREEK
by Meredith Costain

Riding along, with Molly and Jack
Down to the creek on the bicycle track
Birds in the air
Wind in my hair
Creek full of ripples and ducks that go quack!

Bicycle track
Molly and Jack
Creek full of ripples and ducks that go quack!

Off to the creek with a snack in my pack
Wheels whizzing round with a clickity-clack
Kites in the breeze
Magpies in trees
Dogs running free and the sun on my back

Clickity-clack
Snack in my pack
Dogs running free and the sun on my back.

Riding back home on the bicycle track
Hungry for dinner with Molly and Jack
Bike in the shed
Jump into bed
To dream of tomorrow when we can go back!

Birds in the air
Wind in my hair
Kites in the breeze
Magpies in trees
Bike in the shed
Jump into bed
To dream of tomorrow when we can go back!

Meredith says: When I was young, I rode my bike to school along the banks of a river. The steady rhythm of the wheels going round helped to bring words and images into my head, and I wrote my first poems this way. For this poem, I wanted to try to reproduce that mesmerising rhythm. These days, I ride along the banks of the Merri Creek in inner-city Melbourne with the dogs from the poem – Molly and Jack. And the turning wheels definitely helped to bring the lines and images I needed. You should try it some time!

Meredith has been writing doggerel – and catterel! – since she was six. Her poems have appeared in various publications but she is best known for her book of action verse for the very young, Doodledum Dancing (Penguin, 2007), where this poem is from. Her other books include several titles in the Aussie Nibbles series, The Ella Diaries and Olivia’s Secret Scribbles series. Visit her at www.meredithcostain.com

Write your own poem: What is something you know about that has a rhythm of its own? Someone playing drums? The train going past? Your mum tapping her fingernails on the table? A friend bouncing a ball? Write a poem about the action, but try to write it in a way that gives us the rhythm as well. You don’t need to use rhyme – repetition works just as well – but if you want to rhyme, have a go!

 

SCREECH TREE
by Lorraine Marwood

This is the morning doorway
skyway
screeching.

Cockatoos landing, dip
yellow crowns and beak speak.
Cockatoos leaving, dip
white breast coats and beat feet.

A whole river reflection
from tree so many centuries high,
as cockatoos bustle
the same unbroken hustle.
As eyes like water jewels
preen the comings
and goings from SCREECH TREE!

Lorraine says: We were in a caravan park with lots of very old gum trees, and a little stream nearby. At
sunrise the cockatoos  would screech away, then at dusk they would fly home to roost in the hollows of tall
tree trunks. What a glorious noise they made as they flew out, then flew in again. A cockatoo is such an
iconic Australian bird, I just had to write it a poem! I sat near those trees and wrote the first draft. Screech
tree identifies the most striking feature of the Cockatoo- its noise.

Lorraine loves writing poetry. Her latest book ‘Star Jumps’ is  written in prose poetry (published by Walker
Books). She believes poetry both cuts to the essence of a story or emotion, yet  at the same time provides
layer after layer of surprise and  sensory  detail. Her website is www.lorrainemarwood.com    Write your own sound poem: What do you hear every day? Have you ever stopped to listen to each and every sound?
Try closing your eyes and identifying each sound, which one is close, which one is far away. Do you know what
every sound is? Which one resonates with you the most? Write a poem about it.

After the Fires
by Jenni Overend

May moisture fall softly on the tender scorched earth
May a green haze spread amongst the blackened stumps
May bunches of leaves sprout on charred trunks
May small creatures find sheltering hollows left by fire
May birds find food and fill the air with song
May autumn rains gain strength to
fill rivers and moisten wetlands
for frogs and waterbirds
May the earth feel renewed and restored
May human hearts lose their fear
and communities unite
and grow strong
And broken hearts find joy where least expected.

Jenni says: We live in Toolangi which is about 15 minutes drive from Kinglake, a
little township devastated by the bushfires of February 7.  The wind changed late in the afternoon as the fires were sweeping toward our township, swinging north, and we were saved. But every time I drive back to Toolangi, I drive through acres of scorched forest.  This is what inspired ‘After the Fires’.

Jenni Overend is a writer and  teacher who lives in the mountains above the Yarra Valley.  She writes for adults and children, but her books are for kids.  Her most recent book, Stride’s Summer was about a boy and his pet cockatoo and their experience when a bushfire swept
through their home town.

Write your own poem: This kind of poem is known as a litany, where you repeat the same words at the beginning of each line. In earlier times, it was also called a prayer. You can write your own litany about almost anything, but it works best when the repeated words add extra meaning. Some examples of repeating words are: I remember, This time I, This is what it means, Have you ever. Choose a repeating phrase that sings to you, and write your own litany.

 

TWO TRIBES
by Sherryl Clark

Which two? Can you
name them, tell me
who they are?
Do they live together,
or are they at
each other’s throats?
This world, so bent on
assimilation, so vocal
about fitting in,
wants one tribe,
one way of living.
Drums beat, words spin,
you climb into an aeroplane
and flash across
a web of countries,
flying over people
you never see.
Try this – live with
the other tribe
without knowing their language,
their customs, their version
of courtesy.
See how well they treat you.
See how well
you treat them.

First published in Trust Me! (Ford Street, 2008)

Sherryl says: The idea for this poem came from hearing someone complain about people in Australia not speaking English and not ‘fitting in’. I remembered when I first traveled overseas what a confronting experience it was to be in a country where English wasn’t spoken – you suddenly understand something of what it must be like for new immigrants here!

Sherryl Clark has more than 34 children’s and YA books in print, including her verse novel, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), a CBCA Honour Book. Her latest book is Tracey Binns is Lost (UQP). Her website is at www.sherrylclark.com

Write your own poem: Is there something you feel very strongly about? The environment? War? Famine? Try a political poem – but don’t preach. Instead, use imagery and ideas to get your readers thinking.

 

NIGHT RAIN
by Jackie Hosking

It begins with a drip
Like a clap
At the back of the hall

As the curtain comes down
There’s another
Like the other

Tip tapping
Pitter patting
Hands clapping
Keeping rhythm
With the rain as it falls

Till it rises again
Like a skirt in the wind
Flip flapping
Slip slapping of skin
Against skin
Till they’re pelting the stage
With applause

Jackie says: Night Rain was first published in The School Magazine (Blast Off) in 2008. I wrote it after listening to the rain one night in bed and I realised how much like clapping it sounded, especially as it got heavier and heavier. I could imagine a large crowd of people jumping to their feet to applaud something amazing.

Bio: Jackie thinks she might be a poet, or if not a poet, a place where poems like to hide. And when she finds one she is really grateful that it chose her for its hiding spot. If you’d like to read some more of Jackie’s poems you can go to her website at www.jackiehosking.com

Write your own poem: When we write a poem about one thing (like night rain) and compare it to another (like a performance) without using the words like or as, we’re creating a metaphor. Think of something you are familiar with, or have seen or heard or experienced. What did it remind you of? Do the cars in your street remind you of an amusement park? Does your local shopping mall/cnetre remind you of a circus? Write a poem in which you describe this by using words that would also describe the thing it reminds you of.

 

THE SCHOOL CLEANER’S STOREROOM
by Anne Young

In the damp-earth dark where no child goes
Fat white bottles nestle like molars
Spray bottles clutter, triggers poised to spurt or mist
Cloths jumble in bright buckets
Germ-killer chemicals swell the air with sickly sweet
Posters and notes command: Take Care! Watch Out! Do This, Do That
A cluster of brooms shelters beneath the king mop,
wide and orange and shaggy
The vacuum cleaner coils like a ridged serpent, waiting.

They lurk ‘til the quiet of all-children-gone
Then slurp and suck and wipe and swish
Rubbish gone, mess gone, grime gone

Silent and clean

Return to the damp-earth dark
Where no child goes.

Anne says: Schools without children are like shells without the sea – remembering, waiting. Occasionally a treasure is hiding in the stillness, as I found one afternoon when I stayed late in a small rural school.

Anne Young: ‘I write in a variety of genres, mostly for children. My true love, in writing and reading, is picture books. I use them in learning activities and read them aloud for pleasure across all primary school grades. I’m the author of one published picture book, Just Like Me.’

Write your own poem: Do you know of a secret place? Somewhere that you’ve discovered? Somewhere all your own? Or somewhere imaginary? It might be a cubby, it might be under your bed or in your wardrobe. Write a poem that describes this place and what happens there.

 

WINTER
by Claire Saxby

Winter is a frostling,
fingers long and sharpened.
It scales up and down my back,
flicks at my cheek.

Winter is a gustling,
fingers bold and stinging.
It needles through my skin,
tours through my bones.

Winter is a soakling,
fingers swirl and flick.
It rivers down my neck,
ices up my toes.

Winter is a crispling,
fingers fresh and vibrant.
It blows bright into my lungs.
reminds me I’m alive.

Claire says: I mostly write free verse but sometimes I like the idea of some structure. This is the second poem I’ve written using this repeating structure. The first was themed around Autumn. Winter is often described as having long cold fingers and I wanted to take that idea further. I didn’t want it to rhyme, but I wanted a strong rhythm. I saw winter as a series of imps, each doing their bit to make the day unbearable. But although winter can sometimes be long and cold, it can also be clear, sparkling and invigorating.

Claire writes poetry, fiction and non fiction for children. Her poem, ‘Pompeii Dog’ is currently touring suburban Melbourne aboard a Connex train in the Moving Galleries exhibition. Her books include ‘Ebi’s Boat’ (CBCA Notable Book 2007) and ‘A Nest for Kora’. You can see more of Claire’s work at www.clairesaxby.com

Write your own poem: One of the fun things you can do in a poem is make up words. Choose a subject (it could be a season, or a sport, or an animal – anything really) and make up four new words that describe your subject. Look at Claire’s poem again for examples of how to do it. Then write your own poem and include your new words.

 

BIRD IMPRESSIONS
by Janeen Brian

Two cockatoos soar and
pin back blue sky
with yellow-beak screeches and
snow-white wings.

Left in their wake,
two tiny clouds,
crested-white and angel-winged,
drift

like bird impressions.

Janeen says: I’d stepped out of a suburban shop, thinking about what I’d just bought. When I heard screeches in the sky I looked up. What I saw was a pair of cockatoos – two pure white creatures flapping jubilantly against a bright, blue sky. That was startling and satisfying enough. But then I glanced to one side. Immediately behind the birds, were two small, fleecy clouds. They were bird shaped, with wings outstretched – almost replicas of the cockatoos. I couldn’t believe. It was a magic moment. My purchase seemed dull and inconsequential after that!

Bio: ‘I am constantly looking about in my environment. I love noticing things, or finding things and then writing poems; crystallising experiences or images into the right words, with the right flavour and with an inherent rhythm. I have three books of verse, Silly Galah!, Nature’s Way A –Z and By Jingo! and also two picture books in narrative verse: The Super Parp-buster! and Columbia Sneezes! My latest book is Oddball (Walker Books) and my website is: www.janeenbrian.com’

Write your own poem: When did you last get a surprise or a fright? Was it real, or did you imagine it? Write a poem that describes the experience – what surprised or frightened you, how you felt, what was the outcome …

 

POSSUM
by Jenni Overend

I see you through the skylight
in the black wattle
silhouetted against early blue.
We are exchanging our waking and sleeping, you and I.
You stretch and scratch
and ready yourself for sleep,
I stretch and yawn and watch the sky lighten.

Sleep well
small mammal
’til the stars burn through again tonight.

Jenni says: Our home is in the mountains above the Yarra Valley in Victoria.  We live in an old country house of many rooms and levels.  When I wrote this poem, my bedroom was in an attic with a skylight so I could see the stars at night.  Our roof is overhung by trees, which are visible through my ceiling window. One morning I woke early, just as the stars were fading, to hear the sound of a possum on the roof.  I watched it as it clambered onto a branch visible from my bed and settled itself ready for sleep…just as I was getting ready for my daytime.

Jenni Overend’s most well known book is Hello Baby illustrated by Julie Vivas and shortlisted by the CBC in 2000.  Her most recent book, Stride’s Summer, her first novel for young adults, was published in 2007. She also teaches adults and children the joys of writing stories and poems.  She loves writing poetry most of all, and this is the first of her poems to be published.

Write your own poem: It’s fun to observe animals, how they behave, how they move, how different they are from humans. Write a poem about an animal where you include some of these observations, and also include yourself in the poem! How are you different? The same?

 

THE DREAMS OF DOGS
by Michelle Taylor

Have you watched a dog at night
dreaming at your feet?
No, it isn’t just asleep!
When its eyelids grow heavy
and its breathing too,
then your dog is running
away from you
to the world of its wildest dreams.

You may try to guess
where it goes, but remember –
it’s only the dog
that truly knows
when it twitches its whiskers
or flashes a fang,
when it growls
or whimpers
or its paws hit the floor
with a BANG!

Is it living a nightmare
or fulfilling a fantasy?
Have you wondered
where doggy heaven might be?
Maybe your dog’s escaped
to a yard that’s full of bones
or perhaps your pet’s a person
and you’ve been locked out
of your home!
What if your dog’s
become a pure bred hound
that fusses over food
and sleeps on the lounge,
or perhaps a sheep-dog
working for its keep.

I wonder though
if the greatest dog dream
is drifting back in time:
reunited with wild ancestors –
dingo, wolf, coyote.
Hunting its prey
sleeping on dirt or snow,
howling beneath a full moon,
knowing what only dogs know…

This poem is from If Bees Rode Shiny Bicycles (UQP, 2003).

Michelle says: The idea for The Dreams of Dogs came from growing up with a bevy of dogs.  We always owned at least one, but neighbours’ dogs were welcome at our place too, as my Mum was a great dog-lover. I loved watching our dogs asleep at my feet at night.  They could be so restless – twitching their noses, revealing their fangs, whimpering or muffled woofing, paws going and clawing away at the carpet, even their tails wagging.  It occurred to my for the first time back then as a child, that dogs must dream, just like humans.  I let my imagination go when it came to writing this poem, and had a lot of fun wondering just what kinds of things dogs might dream about…

About Michelle Taylor: I’m passionate about poetry and its potential to bring some magic into our lives. I believe that poetry can allow both young and old to express themselves more fully, and to appreciate themselves and the world around them with new wonder. I want those I work with to go away feeling two things – firstly energised, and secondly, empowered by words and their endless possibilities in our lives.” Michelle’s books include If Bees Rode Shiny Bicycles and If the World Belonged to Dogs.

Writing Exercise: What do you think your pet dreams about when it’s asleep? Or an animal in the bush, like a kangaroo? Write a poem that answers this question!

 

EQUALITY
by Edel Wignell

Life is a game of chess
with kings, queens and knights,
Bishops, rooks and pawns
standing in their places.

It’s a play for ultimate power
with tactics, manoeuvres and schemes.
There’s winning and losing, rules
observed, removal, completion.

At the end of the game, however,
the players – from king to pawns –
Are tossed, powerless at last,
into a box – equal.

Edel says: I have a large, heavy chess board made of wood inlay. One day, when I was struggling to move it, the idea of the chess game as a metaphor for equality zipped into my brain. I wrote and re-wrote until I was satisfied.

Edel Wignell likes playing with words and ideas. You can read some of her poetry and verse, both serious and humorous, on her website: www.edelwignell.com.au Her latest books are a picture-story, Big Eyes, Scary Voice, illustrated by Carl Pearce (Tamarind Books, UK, available fromRandom House Australia) – for ages 3- 5 years, and The White Elephant: Drama based on Asian Folk Tales (Teaching Solutions), for Years 3 to 6.

Try one of these yourself: An ‘idea’ poem often starts with something concrete. Think of an item: e.g. a piece of furniture (in the house), a fence (in the country), a lighthouse (by the sea). How would you describe it? What does it mean to you – or to others? Put your descriptions and meanings into a poem – blend the two together.

 

It’s one of those days
by Vicki Thornton

when you sleep through the alarm
wake up to find that someone has hidden your shoes
your face has been tumble dried warm
your hair has a mind of its own
and decided that beehives are back in a big way.when the bus is late
the train early
you’re all fingers and two left feet
words are swallowed whole
your tongue lies in a knot at the back of your throat
and even just smiling hurts.when you did your Math homework
forgot your English
remembered to bring the egg sandwich
your mum made for lunch
your music lesson goes on forever
and you know tomorrow has to be better
has to be better
has to be.

Vicki says:  I think everyone has one of THOSE days- when nothing goes right
and the day seems to drag on and on forever. I wanted to contrast with
how we feel on one of those days with the belief that tomorrow has to
get better. Doesn’t it?

Vicki Thornton writes poetry, plays, novels and short stories for
children. Her books Whistler’s Mine published by Thomson Nelson and
Cinnamon and Spot, Who is Cinnamon Smith? and Cinnamon Finds a Sport
were published by Oxford University Press. She works in a library where
she runs a Storytime session, being surrounded by children and books is
a great way to stir up ideas.

Writing Exercise: Write a poem about the worst day of your life. Pretend you are telling a very small story –
show us what happened through word pictures. Or if all of your days are good ones (lucky you!), write a poem about an imaginary disastrous day. If you have several disasters in a row, put each one in a separate verse or
stanza. How will you finish the poem? Looking forward to tomorrow? Think about how to create a satisfying ending.